Once again PsychAssist have featured a blog post by one of our MSc Health Psych students: Gurkaran Dhanda. He makes some really important points which we’ll be sure to share with new students coming for induction next week.
Check out Gurkaran’s post at PsychAssist.
On 15th October, staff member Carol Percy and recent graduate Charys Orr contributed to the annual conference of Verity, the national charity for patients with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). More than eighty women from across the UK took part.
Carol gave a presentation on the emotional impact of PCOS, and took part in an expert Q&A panel, alongside Dr Suman Rice of St George’s University Hospital, Dr Judith Ibson, GP and Senior Lecturer in Primary Care and Prof Stephen Franks, Imperial College and St Mary’s Hospital. This was followed by a practical self-management workshop, which gave tasters of different approaches and signposted places where patients could get more support. Charys, who interviewed patients with PCOS for her MSc dissertation, led a mindfulness meditation, while Carol gave some suggestions for using cognitive behaviour therapy and self-compassion.
Charys and Carol have been working on developing a new self management support programme for PCOS patients. Charys conducted patient interviews as part of her MSc health psychology dissertation project, and Carol is currently interviewing health professionals and charity stakeholders. They are using a co-creation approach to designing the new intervention, which will be an adaptation of Coventry’s HOPE programme.
Charys said: “The Verity conference was a great opportunity for me to meet with patients, doctors and researchers to enhance my knowledge of PCOS and see how the self-management programme will benefit those who suffer with the condition. I also benefited from from being able to practically apply my knowledge and skills in mindfulness I had learnt over the course of my masters, particularly during my dissertation research.”
PCOS AFFECTS 1 IN 5 WOMEN IN THE UK
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is the most common female hormone condition and manifests differently in each woman. It can be incredibly devastating to a woman’s self esteem and quality of life.
MSc Health Psychology students travelled to Sri Lanka in August, on a trip organised by Coventry University and the Colombo Institute of Research and Psychology. The Sri Lanka visit enables our students to gain insight into the cultural differences in psychology and healthcare across the UK and Sri Lanka.
During their ten day tour Coventry students worked at CIRP delivering lectures, visiting psychological sites, hospitals and counselling rooms. They also explored the local area, including some beautiful temples, and took part in an international conference.
Dr Elizabeth Sparkes, Course Director said
This is the second year that the trip has run and it was a huge success again. It’s lovely to hear the students have gained so much personally and professionally from the experience.
Find out more about students’ experiences below.
Healthcare in Sri Lanka
The most valuable experience I had during my time in Sri Lanka was visiting the hospital in Kandy. After the long drive to the highlands, we spent the morning at the main hospital there. We were given the opportunity to sit in on patient consultations, directed by the hospital’s head Psychiatrist, amongst clinical psychologists and other health care practitioners. Although the majority of consultations were in Sinhalese, conversations were translated and paraphrased so we could broadly understand patients’ situations in each appointment. What was really interesting to learn was that even though facilities in Sri Lankan hospitals are nowhere near as advanced as those in Britain, the way in which mental health is treated is very similar- mental health is still considered a taboo subject and is most commonly treated in a similar way to physical health. Despite practitioners trying to facilitate a shift in treatment and trying to encourage CBT and other behaviour change techniques, patients would rather be prescribed a long list of expensive medications than engage in therapy. After two additional hospital visits, we met with the Psychology staff and two government health representatives at the Colombo Institute of Research and Psychology. We had a discussion where we compared cross-cultural health care. It was really interesting to learn about different aspects of both Sri Lankan health care and that of China and Singapore as well, where my friends were from.
We went to three different hospitals. It was interesting to see that for mental health patients, the hospital set a large timetable, including meditation, art workshops, music therapy and sport activities. We also joint a consulting time in outpatient clinic and met different patients with different psychological syndromes. It was a very practical experience, which is very rare to have in the UK.
Out and about in Colombo and beyond
Looking back at our time in Sri Lanka, the main thing that comes to mind is how busy Colombo was. We were straight into activities almost as soon as we arrived in the city and every day we spent was packed full of visits to hospitals, lectures and conference days. As valuable as these visits were, my favourite parts of the trip were definitely the calmer moments we spent in museums, temples and landmarks (especially the beautiful sights in Kandy) where we could learn more about the history of Sri Lanka and the role Buddhism plays in their culture. Overall, my trip to Sri Lanka was an amazing experience. My visit to the country was the first trip I had ever made outside Europe so experiencing and learning to respect Sri Lankan culture was eye-opening and has made me want to visit the country again and spend more time visiting cultural sights and landmarks.
The Colombo trip was good. People from CIRP were all very nice and caring. Before we went there, the weather forecast warned that Colombo would rain all the time when we were there. However, luckily, we had all beautiful sunshine when we were out. Colombo is a very busy city with bad traffic, luckily, the little tuk tuk taxi could take us running through the traffic to escape. Once, we went to a wrong place and we thought we couldn’t catch our schedule on time, but tuk tuk just magically took us to the right place in a limited time. We were not late at all. The first day after we arrived, we were excited to try local street food as our first meal and with CIRP people’s recommendation. I think after our first meal, we were kind of thinking maybe we could have some ‘normal’ meal next time, like western food maybe? My favourite part is, I could get avocado juice anywhere!
The ICAP conference days we had were really interesting. It gave us the opportunity to find out about up to date international research in applied Psychology. We were able to meet with psychologists and researchers from across the world to discuss our interests in Health Psychology. During the first day, we were able to have a conversation about issues and debates in Psychology and compare cross-cultural views of these. I found the workshops on the final day extremely engaging and related well to my own specific interests in Health Psychology. As well as learning about the more practical and academic applications of these topics, they also benefitted me on a more personal level.
The three days conference was a wonderful chance to understand the development of psychology in Asia.
The tour was a great way to mark the end of my masters in Health Psychology, driving my passion to continue research and has opened my eyes to clinical opportunities relating to my interests.
Thank you so much to Coventry University and the Colombo Institute of Research and Psychology for granting me with this amazing opportunity and organising the trip of a lifetime!
We’re pleased to share the news that The Midlands Health Psychology Network will be holding its annual conference at Coventry University on March 2nd 2017. The theme will be Approaches to Wellbeing: Working Across Professional Boundaries.
Students from the MSc Health Psychology are encouraged to attend. This will be a chance to see recent graduates and other friends of the course in action, and make useful network contacts. Find out what our students have said about the experience of attending in years past.
News about a forthcoming course likely to be of interest to health psychology trainees – and others.
One Day course in Motivational Interviewing – Coventry University – June 2016
This course is suitable for anyone working within an environment that supports people with change-behaviour such as public health practitioners, clinical, sport and health psychologists, social workers, nurses and allied health and social care professionals. The course is also suitable for academics and students who are interested in developing their clinical skills. No previous experience is necessary. A CPD certificate is included.
About the Trainer: Dr Charlotte Hilton is a Chartered Psychologist with a background in clinical and health psychology and public health. Charlotte works across a range of health and social care settings delivering quality, evidence-based training and research services including support with the evaluation of health interventions. Charlotte is a member of the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers (MINT).
What to Expect from the Course: This 1-day course will help trainees to understand how to support people to change a variety of health related behaviours such as physical inactivity and smoking for example. Training comprises a variety of learning methods such as short lectures, workshops, video consultation examples and plenty of opportunity to practice developing skills. Examples of the application of MI to the specific settings in which trainees work are also provided to help contextualise the skills. Trainees will complete the course with a good understanding of the process of behaviour change and the skills needed to start to integrate MI into routine conversations with clients/patients.
Date and Location: Friday 10th June 2016 9:30-4:30 at Coventry University in Jaguar Building room JA128.
External delegates £200 – to book a place go to: https://www.eventsforce.net/cu/3276/register
Current CU students and CU graduates £100 if you are currently enrolled on a course at Coventry University or if you are a graduate of Coventry University. To book a place email the Health and Social Care Unit at email@example.com
For more information follow the Motivational Interviewing Network Coventry University (MINCU) blog at http://mincu12.wordpress.com/introductory-training/
Informal Enquiries: Dr Charlotte Hilton Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the things that sometimes happens when a person receives a diagnosis of dementia is that their life shrinks. They may have been enjoying an active life, and continue to have work, family or caring responsibilities, but hearing the word ‘dementia’ can conjure up fears about safety, and the need to scale back potentially risky activities. Loved ones may feel a need to protect the person with dementia. It is certainly true that people with advanced dementia may become confused and find themselves lost or in difficulty when in unfamiliar or even well-known places. But the journey from early diagnosis to late stages of the condition may be a long one, and the goal of health professionals is to maintain or enhance the individual’s quality of life for the longest time possible.
Esme Wood from Coventry University’s Centre for Technology Enabled Health Research is currently conducting a doctoral research project, looking at the role that technology might play in helping people with dementia enjoy outdoor activities. Can safer walking technology help reduce or delay life shrinking? If you or someone you know might be interested in taking part, please see Esme’s video on YouTube.
Esme has also reviewed the literature on safer walking technology. You can read her work at
Congratulations to Anjulie Dhillon, who took her MSc Health Psychology at Coventry in 2014/15 and has gone on to do stage two training in health psychology, via a professional doctorate.
“Since graduating with an MSc in Health Psychology at Coventry University, I have recently joined Staffordshire University on the Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. I am working as a Trainee Health Psychologist, based primarily on a Paediatric Burns Unit. I support young burn victims and their families through recovery and I will also be undertaking clinical work with adults with diabetes and chronic pain. This opportunity has provided me with the chance to apply my knowledge of Health Psychology models and theories in a clinical area, allowing me to grow and develop as a Trainee Health Psychologist. During the next two years I will be working on a number of projects including psychological interventions, research and teaching. I have also been very fortunate to have continued my work with Coventry University and I look forward to carrying out some research with Liz Sparkes in the new year, as well as delivering some teaching sessions to current MSc students later this academic year.”
We wish Anjulie enjoyment and success in her stage two training and we’re looking forward to her visiting us on the programme at Coventry.
Congratulations to recent graduate Prabneet Gill who took her MSc Health Psychology at Coventry in 2014/15. Prabneet has gone on to take up a place on a PhD in Health and Population Sciences at the University of Birmingham.
“My project is on multi-morbidity, which is the co-occurrence of two or more chronic medical conditions in one person. This can present many problems for the NHS and if not managed appropriately, can exacerbate symptoms and cause complications to occur. I will be working in collaboration with local University hospitals and be focusing specifically on the self-management aspect of multi-morbidity. I will mainly be conducting research on patients to gain an insight into what barriers they face when managing their conditions (whether this is in primary care itself or other issues) and what can be done to remove these barriers. Finally, I will be creating an intervention to help empower patients and to encourage greater independence and self-management of their conditions. Hopefully the project will give an up-to-date insight into a growing area of healthcare in the UK, and may inform how clinicians across disciplines can administer more consistent care.”
We wish Prabneet success in her research and we hope she’ll be back to visit us some time to inspire current and future students.
Run, keep going, don’t look back! A tried and tested method and it doesn’t seem to work. Pain is a phenomena which is still yet to be completely understood by science. Both mental and physical pain generally bite you on the bum at some later stage if you try to ignore them. What we resist often persists.
I will never understand how your pain feels, I only know my own. Pain is often hidden, unlike a broken leg and therefore this complicates our relationship with it. The need to feel believed and understood can be so strong. Physical pain can be like two daggers, the first being the pain itself, the sensation, and the second dagger represents the turmoil that we experience through catastrophic and disruptive thoughts about having pain. Therefore pain is made up of primary suffering, and then secondary suffering. We can’t always remove the primary suffering but we do have ways of reducing and changing the secondary suffering, the tyranny of thoughts that accompany the pain and drive our mood.
Researchers studying neuroscience have shown that just a weeks worth of sitting with awareness of pain and engaging with meditation (following the breath), changes the brains response to pain. Being curious about the sensations themselves rather than getting caught up in thought about the impact of pain can make a difference. The flurry of activity in areas in the brain associated with relaying the sensory experience reduces while activity in areas that moderate pain increases. These moderating areas include those that inhibit and reduce negative and destructive thoughts and emotional responses. The pain doesn’t necessarily go but it becomes less attached to a whole host of mental torture, which is what increases our sensory experience.
To change the experience of pain, to reduce some of the secondary suffering we need to turn towards the pain. Understandably there are varying levels of pain and chronic pain, and therefore facing pain is sometimes easier said than done. If it feels ok spend some time with the pain, invite it in to your awareness. What are it’s qualities, where does it reside in the body? Does it have a shape or colour? Just give some attention to the raw sensation of the pain, be curious. Try not to judge what you are attending to, notice any judging thoughts and come back to the sensations alone. Don’t try to get rid of the pain, and notice the emotion you feel towards it. You are now becoming familiar, without all of the mental analysis, which is what makes the pain worse.
I am interested in the impact of women experiencing pelvic pain/endometriosis and how to best support these women. One of the MSc students at Coventry university that I supervise recently conducted a pilot study, looking into the impact of a mindfulness course on pelvic pain. Clair Dempsey identified some trends, women who completed the online course showed improvements in their quality of life and also reduced catastrophic thought. We hope to look at this on a wider scale soon.
Mindfulness won’t take the pain away necessarily, but it will change the experience of it. If we can change the experience of it then daily life will improve, our relationship to the pain will change and the impact it has on us will also change. We are not trying to change our thoughts, but separating our thoughts from the sensations.
Follow Dr Elizabeth Sparkes on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lizzeduarte